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No More Suits for Wall Street Workers

FILE - Traders work inside the Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 21, 2018. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
FILE - Traders work inside the Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 21, 2018. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
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The Goldman Sachs Group recently eased its rules for what employees wear to work. Then, the company asked them for ideas on what they should wear to work now.

Goldman Sachs employees were told to leave comments with the Twitter social media service.

The most popular answer was “hoodie and sneakers.” The second most common answer was a “suit.”

The findings showed that the issue of what to wear to work has become important at one of the oldest, most traditional businesses.

Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs sent a letter to its employees. The 150-year-old company said that the time was right “to move to (a) firmwide flexible dress code.” At the same time, the firm asked its 36,000 employees to think carefully about how they dress for work.

The move toward flexible, less structured workplaces began in the 1990s, said Robert Burke, head of Robert Burke Associates, a service specializing in the fashion industry.

The idea became widely accepted with the rise of technology companies like Amazon and Facebook and their leaders. Burke said that Goldman Sachs is one of the last big Wall Street firms to ease its dress code.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is famous for wearing blue jeans and a gray T-shirt. He and his company changed the way people communicate with each other and advertise. When he wore a blue suit to a congressional hearing last year, some people said he appeared smaller or of less importance than his public standing.

That event shows that one cannot wear jeans everywhere.

But the financial companies knew they must change because they want young people working as their employees. These individuals could just as easily work for a technology company, and never have to wear a suit to work.

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon performs at Schimanski night club in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 14, 2018. REUTERS/Trevor Hunnicutt
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon performs at Schimanski night club in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 14, 2018. REUTERS/Trevor Hunnicutt

The clothing rules at Goldman Sachs first changed in 2017 for the company’s technology and digital division employees. By including the rest of its workforce, Goldman honors its “one firm philosophy and the changing nature of workplaces.” The change comes three years after JPMorgan Chase & Co, the largest bank in the United States, announced its own flexible dress code.

The change can be seen among the leaders of financial service companies. Goldman Sachs’ chief David Solomon sometimes goes to official events without a necktie, as have the chiefs of JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup.

Talk of the move to business casual is often about what men wear. That is because the banking industry has mostly male leaders. Catalyst is an organization that supports women in the workplace. The group says its research shows that men held nearly 80 percent of top positions in U.S. investment banking and securities dealing in 2015.

For many years, women have much harder choices to make about what to wear to work.

Jennifer Hyman is chief of Rent-the-Runway, a clothing service for women. She told Goldman Sachs in a tweet that none of the answers listed in its survey are related to women and what they should wear to work.

There are fashion tech companies that offer advice for women tired of investing so much time in deciding what to wear. Such businesses want to help women create their own office “uniform.”

Ariel Schur is head of the employment service ABS Staffing Solutions. Schur told the Associated Press that she gets more questions from men nowadays about what to wear for job interviews and meetings. Those kinds of questions have been asked by women for a long time.

“Guys have always just been able to wear the same suit, change their ties and shirt,” Schur said. “You have to be more cognitive” as a woman, she added.

So, what is acceptable to wear at the office these days?

“This is pretty much what we wear,” said Ed Silhan, who works for an advertising technology firm. “Flip flops, or playground sneakers — I’d stay away from that,” he said. “You know, beat-up Nikes that you play basketball with. Just look presentable.”

Silhan wore black jeans and boots as he spoke to an AP reporter in New York’s Midtown Manhattan.

The “midtown uniform” — slacks, button-downed shirt and fleece vest — has become a common choice for men who work in U.S. offices.

“That’s probably a lazy solution,” said Chris Bossola of The Need Supply Co. He says it would be better if men created a set of clothing that works for their industry.

I’m Bryan Lynn. And I'm Dorothy Gundy.

Alexandra Olson reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

hoodie – n. a sweatshirt with a hood covering the head

sneakern. a shoe with a rubber bottom that is designed for people to wear while running or playing sports

suit – n. two or more pieces of clothing that are worn together

dress coden. a set of rules about what clothing may and may not be worn at a school, office, or restaurant

fashion – n. the popular look or way of doing things

blue jean – n. clothing made of blue denim

interview - n. a meeting at which information gathered from a person

cognitive – adj. of or relating to intellectual activity

slacks – n. clothing worn from the waist down to the ankle

vest – n. clothing worn on the upper body over a shirt

What do you usually wear to work? Is the usual office clothing changing in your country? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.